The Emerge Film Festival hits a big milestone as the Lewiston/Auburn institution begins its fifth season on Thursday. The festival, which runs through Saturday, arose as an inspirational example of dedication in the face of crisis when the venerable Lewiston Auburn Film Festival abruptly shut down in 2014. Scrambling to keep what had become a vital part of the region (and the state’s) artistic landscape, Emerge organizers managed to put together that first year’s festival in a matter of weeks.
But these days, the Emerge Film Festival is no one’s replacement. Instead, says Emerge board member and sponsorship director Amanda Frost, while the first year was “about figuring things out,” Emerge has expanded in its five-year history to supplant its predecessor. “The community leaders really took up the torch,” Frost said. “Having an indie film festival in this community is so important to the area.”
Frost, who’s been involved with Emerge since the beginning, counts as part of her many duties being the festival’s liaison with the growing number of visiting and home-grown filmmakers attracted to this annual Lewiston-Auburn movie destination.
“Word of mouth has been great for Emerge,” she said. “A lot of our filmmakers come to us through the regular submission process, but others come to Emerge because they hear we do a great job catering to the filmmakers, and that we have an emphasis on wanting them to come here for Q&As and to be a part of the whole experience.”
Curiosity about Maine is also a draw, according to Frost, as well as the opportunity afforded filmmakers to take part in Emerge in the Classroom, the festival’s ongoing educational outreach program, where moviemakers meet Maine students interested in the process. “These high school students are excited to talk to people making film, in Maine and around the world,” Frost said. “They ask really good, tough questions, and our filmmakers are thrilled to talk to them.”
The filmmakers in this year’s Emerge are, indeed, an eclectic bunch, with the more than 40 films coming from as far away as Australia and as close by as the various Maine communities represented by the festival’s “Making it in Maine” filmmaker panels. Said Frost of the impressive roster of Maine moviemakers taking part in the Saturday panel, “This is our first year partnering with the Maine Film Association for workshops and events. We all thought it was just a great idea to bring in all these Maine filmmakers to Emerge.”
As for the films at this year’s Emerge, Frost is especially excited for people to see a trio of very different films. Of Emerge’s Saturday night screening, “The Last Pig,” Frost said: “This is one where people are going to love it or not love it.” The film, about a pig farmer’s necessarily complex relationship with his porcine charges, is, according to Frost, “a beautifully done film. The director of photography, Joe Brunette, is from Maine. It’s a bit different from our normal Saturday night film, which tends to be a little more peppy or uplifting, but this makes you think about life in a different way.”
Emerge’s commitment to showcasing quality short films shines with “Night Call,” student director Amanda Renee Knox’s harrowing tale of a black female cop responding to a troubling call in Los Angeles. “I was completely blown away by a film of this quality from a student,” said Frost, calling it “one of those shorts that just calls out to be made into a feature, which is the end result everyone wants from their short.”
For a film closer to home, Frost urges everyone to come out for “Witchcraft Blue,” Bates professor Michael Sargent’s documentary about Maine’s thriving burlesque scene. “I love the premise, and basically everything about it,” Frost said about the “provocative and interesting” film, noting that, like many of the films at this year’s Emerge, “Witchcraft Blue” will feature a Q&A with the filmmaker, as well as several of the film’s subjects.
So head up the ‘pike this weekend for the fifth annual Emerge Film Festival for your yearly film fix. For details, directions and (quite reasonable) tickets, as well as the full rundown of attendees, films, showtimes and events, head to emergefilmfestival.org.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
THOMAS MEMORIAL LIBRARY (Cape Elizabeth)
Thursday: “Community Conservation: Finding the Balance Between Nature and Culture.” Filmmaker Mark Ireland presents his documentary about four very different active Maine land trusts. Presented by the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust, the 6 p.m. screening is free, and refreshments are provided.
Friday-Sunday: “Belle de Jour.” PMA continues to bring in the newest revival classics with this newly restored edition of Louis Buñuel’s boundary-breaking 1967 film about bored housewife Catherine Deneuve who becomes a high-class prostitute.